Limerick feeling the pressure but they can deliver - and survive

Limerick FC face Sligo Rovers in a must win game at the Showgrounds on Friday evening.
In his column this week Andrew Cunneen talks about how important it is that Limerick FC stay in the Airtricity Premier Division.

In his column this week Andrew Cunneen talks about how important it is that Limerick FC stay in the Airtricity Premier Division.

Limerick Football Club has shown it has the potential to be a footballing giant in this country because of the support it received since returning to the Markets Field. I like a flutter when it comes to gambling. The hopes of Limerick becoming that aforementioned footballing giant in the near future comes down to the roll of a dice.

I’ve gotten to know a lot of good football clubs in my time working in football in this country. I’ve also gotten to know a lot of good football teams. They don’t always go hand in hand, however.

The easiest way to overcome a deficiency off the field, is by overachieving on it. This isn’t always the case, of course. Monaghan United had a small fanbase. They didn’t attract much support, but in Roddy Collins they had a manager who knew how to get the most of his talented group of players.

They won the First Division and gained promotion. Their gates didn’t increase and their promotion eventually killed them off. The same can be said of Sporting Fingal. They won an FAI Cup and went bust soon after. Limerick, now, have the right plan in place. They have a nice ground, a fanbase that seems to be using their wallets to show support and have a pull in corporate Limerick because of this. A winless run of 21 games may undermine all these things, but the dissection will come later if needs be. Right now, the focus is on Sligo and only Sligo.

In a bizarre way, seemingly poor results for Limerick might just have worked in their favour. Martin Russell spoke before about ‘taking’ a winner takes all tie against Sligo on the final day of the season. He would have gladly accepted it. Now, they need to beat Sligo, and hope Drogheda don’t win in Tallaght. This is probably a better scenario. There’s a few reasons for that. The first reason is that Limerick can obliterate any potential reservations they may have about their style of play. They have to win, so they need to score goals. If you score three goals, you probably win the game. Forget balance; go score three. You can’t defend anyway, so there’s no point pretending you can now. Secondly, Drogheda travel to Shamrock Rovers. Due to Rovers beating Limerick, they have a very real chance of catching Cork City for second place on the final day. Pat Fenlon is a winner and he’ll want to be as high as possible in that league table. Thirdly, Sligo being safe helps. They won’t have the same grit about them and they certainly won’t be fully focused after a week of celebrations. Drogheda won’t beat Shamrock Rovers. Limerick are a better side than Drogheda, and Shamrock Rovers are twice as good as both combined when they want to be.

A lot of people are comparing this game to a cup final. Please stop. You can get to a cup final through the luck of a draw, and should you lose it, all you do is not win something. In this situation, should Limerick be relegated, they’d lose something. By something, I mean everything.

The players will say they don’t feel the pressure. I can assure you that they do. The ignited interest in senior soccer in Limerick has started a fire. That fire is making these players sweat. It’s making them sweat heavily. We need to move away from chance, and start to have expectations. We should expect these professional players to do their jobs. We’ve two thousand people coming in the gate to see a side dead bottom. We’re potentially bigger than all of this, and if they want to remain a part of it – and they should want to remain a part of it – they need to win. Unfortunately, football is game. One dodgy decision and the whole thing goes up in smoke. Rolling the dice as we speak.

See you in Sligo.